Birds of Paradise Lost?

First it was the ice plants, now this. My old reliable birds of paradise — once referred to dismissively here as the “pigeons of the horticultural world” — are doing a very unpigeonlike thing — they are dying. Or are they? All I know is they look pretty damn crappy, and until recently they didn’t. What changed? Nothing. Anyway, even if something had — I thought they were supposed to be indestructible!

I am beginning to feel like I have been cursed. Like I have Furies, almost. You know, from the Greek myths? Those things that follow you around and destroy everything around you, eventually driving you mad? My furies are similar — they’re just more single-focussed. They don’t want to destroy everything around me. They just want what’s got roots. “Plaaants. Keeeeeelllll the plaaaaaaaants! Ahhhhhlll of theemmm.” (Because that’s how furies talk, folks.)

Or perhaps my tall, orange friends are not dying after all. Perhaps there’s a simple solution to their wan appearance. Like deadheading. Do I need to deadhead them? I don’t know. I have to admit that — with the size of those blossoms — I’m daunted. It would be like decapitating a chicken. Yuck. Maybe I need to break out the food service gloves. Oh, that’s right. I’m out of them. Mina’s skunk incident took care of that. Grrr.

So, mourn the dead? Or deadhead? I don’t know. What I do know is that I’ll never speak disparagingly of birds of paradise again. Now that ours are stricken, I’m realizing how much I took them for granted. I never acknowledged their strengths. They’ve offered privacy, a (weird L.A.) sort of beauty, nectar for the hummingbirds, pollen for the bees, and — most importantly — the illusion that Mike and I weren’t total barbarians in the garden. Now all of that could be gone. And I never appreciated it.

But I can change.

I am going to really appreciate the lemon tree. From now on. That’s pretty much the last healthy plant left standing out there. If it goes we’re screwed. So, as of today, I am its biggest fan. I am a devotee. I am a lemonist. I will build it a shrine. I will make a pilgrimage to it. I will worship its blessed fruit. I will hallow its sacred branches. Is hallow a transitive or nontransitive verb? Doesn’t matter! Branches, good! Me, bad!

I will sing:

“Holy yellow citrus fruit/ bounteous source of summer juice…”

I just wrote that. I was divinely inspired. Lemons are like that.

Hey…maybe they are! Perhaps lemons really are holy. What other explanation for the fact that one of their trees is still alive — even thriving — while in our care? They must be omnipotent. They must be Great and Powerful! They must be able to perform miracles!

I will pray to them. I will beg their help. And maybe, just maybe, my ailing “birds” will live again. Like Lazarus. But with pistons.

If that fails? Well, I’m sure there’s a spare pair of food service gloves around here somewhere….

3 thoughts on “Birds of Paradise Lost?

  1. mike

    I’ll deal with the Birds of Paradise this weekend. The dead flowers stalks have to be cut all the way down to the bottom. Funny you wrote about it. That’s why I was asking if we had epsom salts and fertilizer. They’ll be fine.

  2. Audrey

    Mike is right. Birds of Paradise are pretty tough, but they do require some annoying pruning in their spiderweb-infested nether regions. Yours will be fine. I never do anything to the ones I inherited in the front and back yard, and they are hardy and happy.


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